Anyone who bothers to read or listen to the speeches of Martin Luther King has his or her favorite. There was the profoundly moving I Have a Dream speech delivered before over 250,000 at the 1963 March On Washington. There was his Nobel Prize Acceptance speech in 1964.
There was his Beyond Vietnam - A time to Break Silence speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 - a year to the day before he was murdered. "Time magazine called the speech 'demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi,' and the Washington Post declared that King had 'diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people.'" The Main Stream Media obviously hasn't improved much, if any, since those turbulent times.
It's hard for me to say which of his incredibly moving and powerful speeches is my absolute favorite but I See the Promised Land / I’ve Been to the Mountaintop, his last speech delivered on April 3, 1968, the day before he was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, resonates with me most of all. Maybe because his words were so prophetic or maybe because his face showed a certain resignation, even acceptance, of what was to come.
Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
On what was supposed to be a routine campaign stop in Indianapolis on that day 43 years ago, Robert F. Kennedy was preparing to speak before a largely black crowd which had waited an hour to hear the candidate.
As his car entered the neighborhood, his police escort left him. Once there, he stood in the back of a flatbed truck. He turned to an aide and asked, "Do they know about Martin Luther King?"
They didn't, and it was left to Kennedy to tell them that King had been shot and killed that night in Memphis, Tenn. The crowd gasped in horror.
Kennedy spoke of King's dedication to "love and to justice between fellow human beings," adding that "he died in the cause of that effort."
And Kennedy sought to heal the racial wounds that were certain to follow by referring to the death of his own brother, President John F. Kennedy.
"For those of you who are black and are tempted to ... be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling," he said. "I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man."
Many other American cities burned after King was killed. But there was no fire in Indianapolis, which heard the words of Robert Kennedy.
A historian says a well-organized black community kept its calm. It's hard to overlook the image of one single man, standing on a flatbed truck, who never looked down at the paper in his hand — only at the faces in the crowd.
"My favorite poem, my — my favorite poet was Aeschylus," Robert Kennedy said, "and he once wrote:
Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forgetfalls drop by drop upon the heart,until, in our own despair,against our will,comes wisdomthrough the awful grace of God.
"What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black."
Two months later, Robert Kennedy himself was felled by an assassin's bullet.
The full text can be found HERE. I weep.